I believe that there is an balanced equation wherein the costs and benefits
make sense. The problem lies in true sustainability. Just because we can
create an abstraction that equates market access with third-world market
participation and first-world consumer satisfaction, doesn't mean we've
arrived at sustainability. If all estimates of petroleum reserves are overly
optimistic and next year is the end, then the abstraction is fictional.
Finally, the issue of the middleman arises. Not only does he take what might
belong to the end participants (poor farmer and consumer) but he is motivated
to undermine the system. Specifically, if the consumer wants organic product
and the middleman can substitute conventional through some sleight-of-hand
then the consumer loses, the farmer loses and the equation is undermined.
These are sticky but critical issues. The bottom line is that consumers must
be selective of what they buy and when they make a purchase it must contribute
to the right system equation.
Bob Kane, North American Coordinator
Institute for Sustainable Agriculture in the Tropics